‘Lot of work ahead’ for the tourism industry
NOW that the government has relented and eased tourists’ visa requirements, a lot of work is ahead to get the industry back on an upward trajectory, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said yesterday.
“Yes, we have to regain lost ground, we must market more aggressively, more creatively, we have to improve our destination, we have to regain the confidence of the world out there,” he told members of Parliament’s tourism oversight committee.
The message needed to go out that “we want you to visit South Africa and, without compromising on our security interests, we’re going to try to make it as easy as possible for you to come”.
He was briefing the committee on the cabinet decision to amend visa regulations implemented earlier this year, and blamed for an alarming drop in tourism figures.
The changes include that visa applications will be accepted by post from countries where South Africa has no foreign missions, that accredited travel agencies could accept applications instead of would-be visitors having to report in person to a South African mission and the dropping of the requirement for people travelling with children from visa- exempt countries to carry unabridged birth certificates.
These changes will be implemented in the next few months, with a top priority being the certification of travel agencies in big markets hit hardest by the in- person requirement – China, India and Russia.
Hanekom said communication would be key to ensuring the new regimen was understood, and for would-be visitors to realise that a “big obstacle” was being removed.
It was clear the tough visa requirements had made a “substantial negative impact”.
The good news, however, was that tourism figures for July were better than those for the same month last year, with visits from the UK up 17 percent.
Hanekom also presented responses to a review of tourism marketing body SA Tourism, conducted by a panel headed by former tourism minister Valli Moosa.
It made numerous suggestions to improve the efficiency of the work of SA Tourism.
Department director-general Victor Tharage said a fund was needed to enable the SA National Convention Bureau to bid competitively for large conventions to be held in South Africa.
HAPPY: Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom.